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While most residents consider animals in captivity as beneficial to research, there is no consensus on whether whale programs should be phased out.

Vancouver, BC – Following weeks of deliberations related to the Vancouver Aquarium’s whale program, residents of British Columbia are deeply divided on the issue of keeping cetaceans in captivity, a new Insights West poll has found.

The online survey of a representative provincial sample sought to review various themes, including awareness, arguments in favour and against keeping animals in captivity, and the possibility of relying on a plebiscite to settle the issue.

Across the province, more than half of residents (54%) are following recent discussions about whales and dolphins in captivity “very closely” or “moderately closely”—a proportion that increases to 58% in Metro Vancouver.

British Columbians were provided with five pairs of contrasting statements related to the issue of animals in captivity, and asked to select the points of view that were closest to their own.

More than three-in-five residents (64%) believe that “animals in captivity help research”, whereas only 16% agreed with the idea that “animals in captivity do not help research.” A majority of British Columbians also supported the notion that “zoos and aquariums are still needed” (62%), compared to 19% who consider that “zoos and aquariums are now obsolete.”

There is also a sizeable difference on the question related to animal well-being, with 45% of British Columbians stating that “animals in captivity suffer”, and just 28% believing that “animals in captivity do not suffer.”

The two questions directly related to cetaceans generated a division in opinion. While 41% of residents believe “captive breeding of whales should stop”, 35% think that “captive breeding of whales should continue.” There is a more pronounced split on whether “whale programs should be phased out” (42% agree with this view) or whether “whale programs should continue” (40% support this notion).


“Most British Columbians tend to look at captivity as something that can advance research, and just one-in-five believe that zoos and aquariums are no longer needed,” says Mario Canseco, Vice President, Public Affairs at Insights West. “However, almost half believe that captivity hinders animals, and this is one of the prevailing feelings that translates into support for phasing out whale programs ”

Almost half of residents (47%) believe it is a “very good” or “good” idea to hold a plebiscite where registered voters get to have a say on the issue of whales and dolphins in captivity. British Columbians aged 18-to-34 (49%) and 35-to-54 (49%) are more supportive of this type of plebiscite than those over the age of 55 (45%).

If a plebiscite with the question: “Should the municipality ban whales and dolphins in captivity?” took place, 44% of British Columbians would vote “Yes” and 43% would vote “No.”

Support for the presumed “Yes” side is equal among men and women (44%, although 16% of female respondents are undecided or would not vote, compared to 9% of male respondents). “Yes” is also stronger with residents aged 18-to-34 and 35-to-54 (45% for both groups) than among those aged 55 and over (41%).

Across the province, support for “Yes” is stronger in Vancouver Island (52%), than in Metro Vancouver (45%) and the Rest of BC (37%).

“The probable Yes vote is driven primarily by would-be voters who have expressed concern about the welfare of animals in captivity,” continues Canseco. “Conversely, No voters are more likely to see a research benefit from keeping animals in captivity.”

About Insights West:

Insights West is a progressive, Western-based, full-service marketing research company. It exists to serve the market with insights-driven research solutions and interpretive analysis through leading-edge tools, normative databases, and senior-level expertise across a broad range of public and private sector organizations. Insights West is based in Vancouver and Calgary and has eleven full-time and five part-time employees.

About this Release:

Results are based on an online study conducted from May 22 to May 28, 2014, among 769 British Columbians who are aged 18+ and are Your Insights panel members. is Insights West’s in-house access panel offering on-demand samples for both clients and research suppliers looking for Western Canadian populations. The data has been statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for age, gender and region. While statistical margins of error are arguably not applicable to online panels/online studies of this nature, we have assumed that the same margins of error apply as if it were a true unweighted random probability sample with a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percentage points, nineteen times out of twenty. Click here to view the detailed data tabulations for this study.

For further information, please contact:

Mario Canseco
Vice President, Public Affairs, Insights West


Photograph: David Ohmer